By RON FANFAIR
Tamara Denise Gordon is living proof that anybody can overcome despite their challenges.
The once aspiring professional basketball player suffered a debilitating spinal cord injury in February 2002 while on a high school downhill skiing trip. She sustained spinal cord and brachial injuries that have left her paralyzed from the waist down and without the use of her dominant left hand.
Despite the obstacles and setbacks, Gordon graduated from high school on time with honours, and from York University last year. She was also recognized as a Member of the Dean’s Honour Roll.
In addition, she serves as a peer support volunteer with the Canadian Paraplegic Association, spending many hours with young people who have suffered spinal cord injuries and spearheads a teen volunteer program and tutoring service, organizes free back-to-school barbecues, Christmas banquets and Canada Day celebrations and presents motivational speeches, always reminding youths to strive to overcome barriers they may face in life.
“Although my body is confined to a wheelchair, my mind is not,” Gordon said in her feature address at the Jamaican Canadian Association’s (JCA) International Women’s Day “Women Recognizing Women” celebration last Sunday. “My body might be impaired, but my mind is vital and vibrant. My body can’t move without help but my mind is free to soar to great heights and I am capable of great achievements. My body does not define me; it is my mind that determines the level of my achievements.
“When I had my accident, I had a choice. I could either give in and give up or lift up my head and move ahead. I chose to lift my head and move ahead. If I wanted an excuse to quit, I could have found many.
“But in my heart, I looked for reasons to keep going…I know there is a lot of work ahead of me and I am up to the challenge because my passion is greater than my problems, my courage is bigger than my challenges, my heart is greater than any hardship and my fire can overcome my fear. I am overcoming despite my shortcomings and so can you.”
The JCA paid tribute to Kamala-Jean Gopie, who served as the organization’s first female president from 1978-1980. The former University of Toronto governor and Urban Alliance on Race Relations chair has contributed financially over the years to the JCA where she has been a member for the past 35 years.
The social service agency also honoured Marcia Brown, Marie Chapman, Tamara Simone Gordon, Rosemarie Hylton and Kristy Salmon.
An entertainer and promoter, Brown contributes to the JCA’s Saturday Morning Tutorial program and donates an annual scholarship while Chapman is the JCA’s receptionist. Gordon, a Toronto Public Health officer, has been an active member of the organization’s education committee; Hylton co-chairs the women’s committee and is a caseworker with the City of Toronto’s Works department while Salmon is pursuing her Masters degree in Nursing.
Jamaica’s Consul General George Ramocan and York West Member of Parliament Judy Sgro congratulated the honorees.
“Women are the backbone of our nation and the world,” said Sgro. “I have been mentoring three young Black entrepreneurial women over the past year and what I see in them is determination and the will to succeed. They don’t see roadblocks. All they need is to see that people care about them.”
Former Toronto mayor and Ontario Human Rights Commission Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall also attended the celebration.
International Women’s day was celebrated globally last Monday.